Pity was something that I wasn’t going to get from my family when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My mother-in-law told me that “God never gives us anything we can’t handle.” This gave me some comfort but I was still angry that my life as I had known it had been taken away from me. There would be no going back to what my life had been and my future would be very different from my past.
One day as I was doing the “Why Me? Why Me?” thing my mother looked me right in the eye and said, “Why Not You?”
Compassion and empathy were not going to be forthcoming from her either. I felt like my entire life had collapsed around me and there was no one to turn to in my family; no one to listen to me through my tears. I had always been the strong one. I had always listened to every else’s struggles in our family and suddenly the situation was reversed. In the past I had never ever hinted that I needed help with anything. No one knew how to deal with “helpless Lynn.” Suddenly I was the one needing to talk about this breakdown that had happened to me as I tried to make sense of it but I knew my husband and extended family didn’t want to hear my tales of woe. On the few occasions pre bipolar disorder when I did try to reach out to them for help they would quickly change the subject. I never even tried to enlist their emotional support this time. Their rejection would have been too much for me to handle. As a disclaimer, I would like to say that it isn’t that they didn’t want to help me, they just didn’t know how.
Thus, I had to rely on strangers for emotional support. I joined a Depressed Anonymous Group. It seemed the people attending this group were the only ones who understood what I was going through. In our little group I could bare my soul and say what was really on my mind without fear of being ostracized.
My extended family stopped sharing their problems and concerns with me after my breakdown. I assume it was because they felt I was too weak to handle their problems. But this is the exact opposite of the truth. I needed to feel needed. Just because I have a mental illness doesn’t mean that I can’t be useful and listen to the heartaches of others. It was as if my family thought I don’t have a brain any more because I was diagnosed with bipolar. Suddenly I was not capable of offering advice. Everyone needs to feel useful, with or without a mental illness diagnosis. Funny thing though, I am now offering free advice for a newspaper. Send your Questions to Life’s Perplexing Problems to Ask Sunny at The Torch Newspaper and look for your answer under Advice.
Looking back, 20 years later, having no sympathy was probably the most helpful thing my mother did for me. It prodded me onward. I knew I would do whatever it took to get healthy again. And that is exactly what I have done.
Writer & Keynote Speaker
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community